Easter - First Importance | 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Topic: Stand Alone Passage: 1 Corinthians 15:1–15:11
Good Morning! Welcome to Damascus Road Church. We regularly preach verse by verse right through books of the bible. We have been preaching through the Gospel of Matthew the account of Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, as the Christ, the Savior – King of God’s people. But past week and this Sunday in particular is unique and set apart. This is what the Church for centuries has called Holy Week. Last Week we celebrated Palm Sunday and looked at Jesus entrance into Jerusalem. Crowds of people with great expectations for how Jesus was going to change their lives were cheering and praising his arrival into the holy city. By Maundy Thursday Jesus was celebrating the Passover remembering God saving his people from slavery and keeping them from certain death. During this meal he reminded them of the certainty of his impending sacrificial death and gave them a new symbol of bread and wine to remember his body broken and blood shed as a sacrifice for sin. That night he was arrested, falsely accused and condemned to death. We gathered for a Good Friday service to consider the execution of Jesus Cross, the price Jesus paid for our Sin. That Friday was good because Jesus was on the cross and we were not. Saturday was a day of tension, discouragement and disbelief. Today we celebrate Easter! Resurrection Sunday!
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
Verse 1-2 | Remind You
What we are doing today in gathering is not expecting to hear something new, but be reminded of what is true. We need reminders of what is true about God, this world, and us because we easily forget, get distracted, discouraged, or even deceived. We look out at the world and see conflict, fear, brokenness; and something within us cries out “It shouldn’t be this way!” We search for answers, we seek comfort and rest. We desire purpose and wholeness. This is where what we call The Gospel comes in. It is the Good news of what God has done for us. It provides answers, purpose, comfort, rest and wholeness. But none of it can have a real power to save or change us if none of it is true. I like watching documentaries. Last week I saw “Going Clear” exposing the cult of Scientology. They discussed their aggressive recruitment tactics and how they bring you in with something that sounds generally good and reasonable like “This will help you have better communication and relationships. It will help you deal with problems in your past.” Later, after years of classes, books, money donated you “achieve” a level where they share what they truly believe about the world including the Galactic Overlord Xenu dumping frozen people near volcanos and then nuking them where they later float on to babies when they’re born, I could go on but I won’t.
The point is when we as the church talk about The Gospel there is to be no bait and switch, no we’ll get to that later, no hidden doctrines. We lead with what we as Christians believe about God, the world, and us.
We believe God created EVERYTHING! And he created it good. Gen 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. This world is not an accident and your existence is not a random happening. You are known by the God who made you. You were created for a purpose. That purpose is to reflect how awesome God is by enjoying the world He has created. But there is a problem; everything is not good.
We believe sin entered the world. Things were not good long before an enemy came to deceive and destroy. Man willingly exchanged the truth about God loving us, for a lie that God doesn’t love us and that sin (rejection/rebellion) has no consequences. We believe because of this, sin has infected everything and everyone, leading to destruction. Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
We believe God promised to save. Sin enslaves and sin kills. God shows his great mercy (not giving us what we deserve) and His Grace (giving us good we do not deserve) by making a series of promises. He would redeem us from slavery of our sin and defeat the enemy. While the Savoir-King will come from one family, tribe, and nation; he will be a great blessing to all the families of the earth. (Gen 3:15, Ch 12:3) .
We believe Jesus is the promised savior-king. While generations of God’s people wait and hear words from prophets reminding them of God’s promises to save. Jesus, God the Son, comes into human history (fully God and fully Man) to proclaim the kingdom of God, preach its values, display its power, to call people to repent (turn from sin towards God). Jesus lives a perfect sinless life none of us have lived, so he can die the death in our place we deserve, and rise again so God can be both just with our sin and gracious to us.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord
We believe Jesus will return and restore. Jesus, after his resurrection returned to heaven, where he is ruling as King. He will return and restore this world to its intended glory and all will be good for eternity.
Revelation 21:3-4 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
“I grew up in church I’ve heard all of this. What’s next?” What do I DO. Christianity is not a religion where we do things to please God; it is recognition of truth of the Gospel, repenting of our sin, and remembering what God has already done for us. We don’t remember Jesus in the past tense as a good teacher, or example. We gather today to remember something amazing that God has accomplished though Jesus and eagerly anticipate what will be fully realized. So we stand and hold fast to the truth of the Gospel. As Christians, and as a church, we have received the Gospel and been entrusted with a great treasure.
Verse 3-7 |First Importance
These verses do not say “if you think about sacrifice and if you have a hopeful attitude that things can be better or new you’ll be a nicer person and life will be better for you.” No. Does the gospel have implications in our lives, in our relationships, in our sexuality, in our finances, in how we treat others? Yes, but NONE of that matters if we don’t get right what is of “First importance.” It is clear and simple.
Christ Died (According to the scriptures) for our sins. This is huge. We cannot have anything we call the Gospel if it doesn’t include our sin, our need for a savior, and Jesus death on the cross in our place for our sins. We can have a lot of good ideas, morals, or world views but they’re meaningless if not including the facts of the gospel. Jesus died for our sin and that is good news. It’s only good news if we know Jesus died, being punished, so we would not be. Moreover he gives us all his perfection. 2 Cor 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Jesus was buried. Jesus being buried is the historical confirmation of his death. He was sealed in a vault. He was laid down in the grave of a rich man. A rock was rolled out over a tomb. Roman soldiers were placed as guards over it. Jesus didn’t just get beat up pretty good and pass out. He didn’t just sorta make it through what would have killed most people. He was dead and sealed in the ground. There is a feeling of hopelessness and a finality to all of this. If this is the end Jesus teaching is insane and his entire ministry is meaningless. 1 Cor 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
Christ was raised. On the third day (according to the scriptures). This is a miracle of God. God would not allow his sinless son not be vindicated. Jesus has done some amazing things, but to be risen from the dead on the third day is more amazing than all of them. We celebrate Easter not because the sun is out again, or the flowers bloom where things that look dead show life, but because Jesus was dead and is alive.
Hos 6:2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.
Jesus said: Matthew 20:18-19 18"We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death 19and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!"
Jesus died for our sins, yes! A thousand times yes! It is amazing that God would let his perfect son not just taste death but to drink deeply the cup of wrath our sin deserves. Having forgiveness of our sin is beyond merciful. But we should want more! Don’t settle for a Good Friday Gospel that merely lets you off the hook for your sin. Want more! Want a new, abundant, and eternal life! The death of Jesus has no eternal value if not for the resurrection. Good Friday is not good without Resurrection Sunday. Jesus dying as a good example of sacrificial service is not enough to change the world or change our hearts. Jesus as a spiritual figure or example is not controversial then or now. Romans were ok with a bunch of spiritual “gods”, no persecution needed, your neighbor is ok with a god that only matters to you. But when Jesus’ resurrection proclaimed all the sudden the stakes are higher, Jesus is who he says he is, and a response is needed. The resurrection of Jesus is the pillar everything in Christianity rests on; take it out and everything falls apart.
1 Cor 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.
Jesus isn’t an idea, or a principal, or an example. He is the living God. For Christians this isn’t mythology this is History. If Jesus didn’t rise then we are all worshiping the decomposed corpse of a homeless Jewish carpenter that became a lunatic rabbi. There is no middle ground with the risen Jesus. It’s all or nothing.
If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn't rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead. – Tim Keller
If there is not resurrection then all we have is life on this earth. That is NOT good news. It means frankly: 1 Cor 15:19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. Oh we might have a little more meaning, love people a little bit better, but what’s the point if this is it. We should be as selfish as we can be if life, vitality, joy are all just one fish bowl slowly draining until there is nothing left.
Jesus appeared. Why do we believe in the resurrection? Because religion is the opiate of the masses? Because it means we have the hope of something better? No. For the simple reason that it’s true. We easily can explain away an empty tomb and not finding a body, but we can’t explain Jesus appearing to a multitude of witnesses. God knows we doubted Him in the beginning even in light of the amazing miracle of creation and He knows we’ll doubt the face of amazing miracle of the resurrection Jesus. God is good to us, he gives us more than an empty tomb. He gives us Jesus in the flesh! He shows us Jesus appearing progressively to those who were close and supportive of his ministry first and then moving out to those farther from and more opposed to the truth of Jesus identity to solidify the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. First Jesus appeared to Peter, his most bipolar disciple. Ok one guy can “see” something/someone or make up a good story. Then Jesus appeared to his core disciples. Ok these guys are on the inner circle, they conspired to make this up to gain power and influence. If that’s the case they didn’t do too well. Each of them suffered horrible martyr’s deaths with the exception of one who was boiled alive and exiled to die. Then Jesus appeared to a huge crowd of his followers, 500! This is all recent enough Paul boldly tells this church you can actually go talk to these people. Ok, but all these people were Jesus followers before the cross, the just didn’t want to believe Jesus had really died. He’s like Tupac, still doing records. Then Jesus appeared to James, Jesus half-brother (We believe in the virgin birth). Before the resurrection James didn’t follow Jesus at all. In fact he thought Jesus ministry was crazy. Because Jesus appeared, the resurrection brought hope realized to Jesus disciples and it converted disinterested skeptics to zealous disciples and willing martyrs. In all there are 12 different separate unique instances of Jesus appearing in the flesh.
Verse 8-9 | Last of All
The last appearance of Jesus Paul described is the most amazing. Before Jesus appeared, Paul was named Saul. He was an ardent opponent of Christianity. He was killing people for them preaching Jesus is the savior of God’s people and Jesus rose from the dead. After overseeing the murder of a church leader in Jerusalem, He was on a mission going down the road to another city “Damascus” to continue terrorizing Christians. You don’t get more opposed to Gospel then that. It like the leader of the Garissa University attack that killed 147 Christians in Kenya saying he’s on his way to a new town. On the Damascus Road Saul was met by a glorious blinding light that asked him “Saul why are you persecuting me?” Saul asked “Who are you, Lord?” the answer, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting, but rise and enter the city and you will be told what you are to do.” Jesus risen and Jesus appearing changed everything for this man, his whole identity (he changed his name) and his whole mission/purpose in life. Paul calls himself one “untimely born” as an intense self-deprecating insult because he knows he is Not worthy of Jesus appearing to him or the grace of God he has received. He was right He wasn’t worthy, I am not worthy, you are not worthy!
Verse 10-11 | Grace of God
That is the heart of the gospel. God’s grace. It is where we receive something we are not worthy of. It is a grace that changes our very identity where we go from sinner opposed to God, to adopted Son or daughter in God’s family. It’s not an empty grace, that’s what vain means, where we give a passing acknowledgment to it as we continue down our own road. It is a grace that requires a radical response. It’s is a full grace that vigorously motivates us to live out God’s purposes for us, because of God’s promises to us. The total amount of our sin being pardoned and the total complete nature of the new life we are given from now through eternity means the only appropriate response is one of complete commitment. It is a grace that means we are part of an amazing story; but we are not the hero of it. Jesus is. We preach the Gospel of Jesus crucified and risen! We believe the Gospel of Jesus! We live the Gospel of Jesus! Trust Jesus!